Debating India

VERDICT 2004

Bitter-sweet victory for the BJP

Siddharth Narrain

Friday 4 June 2004, by NARRAIN*Siddharth

CONSOLIDATING the impressive gains made in the Assembly elections, the BJP added four seats to its tally in Madhya Pradesh - it won 25 of the 29 seats. The party wrested Dhar, Rewa, Rajgarh, Khajuraho and Khargone from the Congress. The Congress only managed to retain the three seats where its heavyweights were contesting. Kamal Nath managed to retain the Chhindwada seat, though with a much lower margin than in 1999, and Jyotiraditya Scindia .Kantilal Bhuria retained the Jhabua though this is in the tribal belt where the VHP and RSS are active. A bonus for the Congress’ Ram Sevak Singh’s was the Gwalior seat, which it wrested from the BJP. The BJP won most of its seats with large margins Kailash Joshi, the president of its state wing, won by over three lakh votes and Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the party’s national secretary, by more than two lakh sixty thousand votes.

The Congress must be ruing its chances of picking up a few more seats. In Bhind its candidate, Satyadev Katare lost by just 678 votes. Infighting within the party meant that it did not pick up any seat in the Vindhya region where the Congress was expected to pick up a few seats. Party leaders were quick to lay the blame on the BJP government misusing state smachinery to ensure that its candidates were elected. Says the party’s spokesperson, Manak Agarwal, "The BJP used state smachinery to intimidate and harass people in order to ensure that they did not vote for the Congress."

But party workers admit that had they a hint of the results at the Centre they would have put in far more energy into the campaigns. The Congress looked like fighting a half hearted battle in Madhya Pradesh for most of the campaign period. Added to this most of the senior leaders from the state including Digvijay Singh did not contest these elections, and party leaders like Sonia Gandhi did not give much importance to the state while campaigning .

The BJP is reading the verdict as a vote in favour of the policies of the Uma Bharati government. Says Uma Shankar Gupta, the party’s spokesperson, "The result is a reflection of the will of the people and of their faith in our government."

But the celebrations at the party’s office were muted this time around as the partythe BJP will now sit in the opposition. Though the party’s hold on the state has been strengthened this is probably because it is too early for the anti incumbency factor to have worked and two terms of rule by the Digvijay Singh government was still fresh in the memory of the people in state. One person who finds himself in a peculiar situation is Laxman Singh, the brother of Digvijay Singh, who moved from the Congress to the BJP before the elections much to the discomfort of his brother and BJP workers in his constituency Rajgarh. Though he won the seat by a comfortable margin, he finds himself sitting in the opposition.

The Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Gondwana Ganatantra Party drew a blank in the elections though they did make it a triangular contest in many seats. The Congress will hope that its performance at the national level will help revive its state unit. Party workers were jubilant even though they won only four seats. The focus now, it seems, will be on rebuilding the party’s organisation in the state.

See online : Frontline

P.S.

Pic 2 : A.M. FARUQUI ; In Bhopal, Congress workers celebrate the party’s victory at the national level.

in Frontline, volume 21, Issue 11, May 22 - Jun 04, 2004.

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